Marriage as a Divine institution

The following is quite interesting. I found it while doing a google book word search. The following are excerpts from “The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer,” Volume XLIX for the year 1780.


I am putting forth excerpts from this abstract of Mr. Madan’s dissertation. Before writing my article on “What Constitutes Marriage?,” I read a lot of things regarding the constitution of marriage but I had not seen this from Madan until today.

“When the great and all wise Creator had formed man upon the earth male and female he blessed them and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth Gen. i. 28. This command was to be fulfilled in a way of God’s own appointment; that is to say, by the union of the man and woman in personal knowledge of each other. This is the only marriage-ordinance which we find revealed in the sacred scriptures. Wherever this union should come to pass, though two distinct and independent persons before, they now were to become one. They shall be one flesh, Gen. ii. 24; and so indissolubly one as to be inseparable. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

That this oneness arose from this act of union, and from the commandment consequent upon it, that they should be one flesh, is evident from the apostle’s reasoning 1 Cor. vi. 15, 16. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of an harlot? [Certainly not!–CD] Know ye not that he that is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.”

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Then taking the members of Christ, shall I make [them] members of a harlot? Let it not be! Or do you not know that he being joined to a harlot is one body? For He says, The two [shall be] into one flesh.” Paul references Genesis 2:24. Here are some questions to consider:

(a) Have the harlot and the one being joined to the harlot become one body, one flesh?

(b) Has the cleaving made them one flesh?

(c) Is the cleaving and becoming one flesh a marriage to a wife?

(d) If the answer to (c) is “no,” then why did Paul use Genesis 2:24 to prove his point?

“This question of the apostle’s — ‘Know ye not that he that is joined to an harlot is one body?’ and what follows, being taken together, have a plain reference to what Adam said Gen. ii:23, 24. ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,’ &c. and seems very fully to determine not only the strictness of the marriage-union, but that which constitutes it in the sight of God. In all which there is not the least hint or most distant allusion to any outward rite or ceremony administered by any person whatsoever; but the whole is made to rest simply and only in the personal union of the man and woman. It is this alone, which according to the apostle makes them one flesh.”

Shortly after my article on “What Constitutes Marriage?” had been posted to the OTC website (May of 2008) I asked via e-mail Dr. William E. Heth (co-author of the 1986 book, Jesus & Divorce with Gordon J. Wenham) in light of his tremendous amount of research had he ever come across the view that sex alone constitutes marriage?

[Not that it matters ultimately, for the Scripture is the final authority and quite clear on the matter. Paul wrote to immature Christians in 1 Corinthians 6:16, “Do you not know…?” which implies that they ought to have known…and then Paul cites Genesis 2:24 to make his point.]

Dr. Heth told me that the position was not novel because he recalled Norm Geisler making the same case in the first edition of his volume Ethics: Alternatives and Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 199-200). Heth further told me that back in the early 1980’s Geisler told him that he no longer held the view.

Anyway, my point is that the BIBLICALLY CLEAR AS CRYSTAL position that sex alone is what constitutes marriage is indeed the minority view (to understate the matter). I surmise that Mr. Madan was one of very few who held the Biblical position on marriage (This is NOT to endorse Madan as a Christian since I have no idea what else he believes).

“If the licentious and temporary union with an harlot makes a man become one body and one flesh with her, we may suppose that the sin of fornication receives no small share of its malignity from the abuse thereby committed of the ordinance of marriage as established by God:

as entering into it without any intention of abiding by it, but merely to gratify a transient lust and that with a woman who departs from one to another as gain or evil desire may lead her. Nevertheless, the apostle on the authority of Gen. ii. 23, 24 says ‘that he that is joined to an harlot is one body, and one flesh with her’ by being engaged in that ordinance of which these things are declared in the passage referred to, to be made consequent upon it, that they are the inevitable consequences.”

Inevitable consequences. One common objection and misunderstanding of the biblical teaching that sex equals marriage is seen in this quote by Andrew Cornes:

“While it is true that in prostitution the client ‘cleaves’ to the prostitute and ‘becomes one flesh’ with her, it does not mean that he has married her. If it did, Paul could not add: ‘Flee from sexual immorality’ (18) which in context clearly includes: flee from the prostitute (s) you have been consorting with” (Andrew Cornes, Divorce & Remarriage, pp. 68-69).

Cornes falsely assumes that all “one-flesh” (i.e., marriage) unions are pleasing to God. Of course, they are NOT. MANY “one-flesh” unions are adulterous unions. The person marrying the harlot in 1 Corinthians 6:16 MUST flee from this sinful “one-flesh” union.

More from Madan:

“From what has been said, it appears that marriage as instituted of God simply consist as to the essence of it, in the union of the man and woman as one body; for which plain and evident reason no outward forms or ceremonies of man’s invention can add to or diminish from the effects of this union in the sight of God.

What end these things may serve as to civil purposes I shall not dispute, but I cannot suppose that the matrimonial service in our church or any other can make the parties more one flesh in the sight of God, supposing them to have been united, than the burial service can make the corpse over which it is read more dead than it was before.”

A person is free to form a culturally-recognized marriage or one that is recognized by society or the state, or whatever or whomever else. The POINT is that NONE of these things play a part in what constitutes a marriage. The bible clearly teaches that it is sex ALONE that constitutes a marriage (this is obviously NOT saying that ALL marriage unions are pleasing to God).

P1 Sex alone makes people “one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16).

P2 “One flesh” is the marriage union (Matthew 19:6; Genesis 2:24).

C1 Therefore, sex alone is the marriage union.

Refute the logic.

“Supposing they have not been united, they are not one flesh in the sight of God by any virtue in the words of the service any more than a piece of wafer becomes flesh and blood by a popish priest’s consecration.

It is not man, but God which makes the twain one flesh; neither is it man’s ordinance, but God’s institution which brings that to pass.”

Many who deny the Scriptural teaching that sex alone constitutes marriage affirm that at least two things have to happen before a person is “actually married.” Sex is one obvious thing, and a given.

The second thing listed varies, but it is usually said to include “intent.” That is, a person must actually intend to marry the person with whom they are sleeping, and if they don’t intend to marry then they aren’t married (in their own minds).

This issue of “intent” puts a person in the place of God. They would labor in vain under the delusion that it is THEY who will decide whether or not they are “truly married.” On the contrary, it is GOD ALONE who decides what means will actually make the “twain one flesh.” And God has already spoken loudly and clearly regarding the means with which He does this joining. Deal with it.

“As to the person celebrating the marriage, the place where, the manner how, it is very certain that these things are wholly of human invention and therefore not only various in different parts of the world, but also in the same country. We have amongst us Jews, Papists, Quakers; all these observe an outward form or ceremony different from each other. As for the Church of England, we have differed from ourselves; for the same ceremony which would have constituted a legal marriage before the 16th of the late king, will not do it now, unless certain circumstances, introduced and insisted upon by the act of parliament, be observed.”

Consider the following scenario:

John believes that there are the following five conditions for marriage:

(1) An intention of the parties to enter into a binding marital union; (2) A verbal solemn oath to take each other to be husband/wife until death parts them; (3) Public accredited witnesses to that verbal solemn oath; (4) A properly ordained minister in good standing to preside over and bless and perform the marriage; and (5) the signing of a state marriage license.

Now suppose John thinks he is”getting married” to Jane by these five conditions. They live together for 20 years and have children. Now suppose one day John finds out that one of the five conditions did not actually occur 20 years ago. (It could be anything — that one of the spouses did not really intend to enter into something binding, that the words of the oath were not proper or were made when they were not saved, that the witnesses were not accredited, that the minister turned out to not be properly ordained, etc., etc.).

John then divorces his wife, saying that they were really never married to begin with, since one of the conditions of marriage was not met. He then marries Amy. He claims that his marriage to Amy is actually his first marriage, and thus he is not committing adultery, even though Jane is still alive.

He could even say that he believes that remarriage while the original wife is still living is adultery, but Jane was not his original wife; they were just living together in fornication because they had not fulfilled all the conditions of marriage. John could even have multiple “marriages” that did not fulfill all the conditions and still say that it is lawful for him to “truly marry” for the first time. What a repugnant justification of wickedness.

“But the all-wise Legislator of the universe hath not left his divine institutions on so vague, so precarious, so uncertain a footing.”

And the John, Jane, and Amy scenario given above demonstrates how seriously precarious the rejection of the biblical view of marriage really is.

“‘But see, said he to Moses, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewn thee in the mount,’ Heb. viii. 5. We find every particular, down to the very pins in the tabernacle, every rite and ceremony, even to the minutest circumstance, exactly delineated and revealed.

But we find no marriage-service, or religious ceremony of an outward kind, so much as mentioned. The business of marriage was left as at first ordained to the one simple act of union.”

To the one simple act of union:

P1 Sex alone makes people “one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16).

P2 “One flesh” is the marriage union (Matthew 19:6; Genesis 2:24).

C1 Therefore, sex alone makes people married.

But “simple” and “easy” to understand is one thing; “simple” and “easy” to accept as true is quite another.

“Should the reader entertain the least doubt of the truth of what has been said, or be under any difficulty in understanding what is meant by those words — ‘they shall be one flesh,’ we may refer to a very clear explanation of the matter; not only by reviewing St. Paul’s words, 1 Cor. vi. 15, 16 but also by considering what is meant by those passages mentioned before from the law of Moses. Exodus xxii. 16,17.

‘If a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.’

By this passage, as from many others in the sacred scriptures, it appears that fathers during the minority of their daughters, as in every other instance, so in the business of contracting marriage, had a negative in their own power;

therefore, if a woman being in her father’s house in her youth; that is, being under age, betrothed or espoused herself to a man — if the father withheld his consent, neither the betrothing nor the espousals could be carried into execution.

But in the passage before us matters were gone too far to be recalled. The man had not only enticed the maid, but had actually lain with her and therefore God commands that he shall surely endow her for his wife.

For now the primary institution took place, ‘they shall be one flesh;’ and what God hath joined together, by pronouncing them one flesh, man could not put asunder. Therefore, the 17th verse doth not say, ‘if the father utterly refuse to give her unto him, such marriage shall be null and void;’ but ‘he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.’ Supposed to be a dowry or portion which the husband paid into the hands of the bride or her father as a kind of purchase of her person.”

The father had the power and authority to nullify any further attempt at consummating the marriage (e.g., forming of a culturally recognized marriage, wedding feasts, etc.); but he did NOT have the power to nullify the marriage that had already been commenced by sex alone.

Of course, sex is usually described as what consummates the marriage, while something like a marriage ceremony is usually described as commencing the marriage. There is no problem with this as long as a person knows the biblical teaching of what constitutes marriage and knows the difference between being married in God’s sight (whether lawfully or unlawfully) and being married in the sight of society, the culture, the state or whatever.

“Having seen what was to be done where a man enticed a maid and took actual possession of her against the father’s consent; let us next see what was to be done where a man took a maid without even the father’s knowledge, not by a seduction or enticement, but on a sudden and unexpected interview by meeting her without any previous intent.

‘If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver and she shall be his wife because be hath humbled her, he may not put her away all the days of his life’ (Deut. xxii. 28, 29).

On whatever account the money was to be paid, it alters not the point in question; ‘for,’ saith God, ‘She shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her.’

This is clearly explanatory of the original institution — ‘they shall be one flesh;’ and ‘what God hath joined together, let no man (either the parties themselves, or any other human power whatsoever) put asunder.'”

The author here demonstrates from Scripture that the man who lay with the damsel was morally obligated to form a culturally-recognized marriage which involved the payment of a fifty shekel dowry as the bride price.

“Having, I trust, established this truth, that where a man and a virgin are united by the communication of their persons to each other they become one flesh in the sight of God so made by his express command, insomuch that the man may not put her away all his days, it follows that they are indissolubly united, beyond the power of disunion by any authority whatsoever.”

And only God, by His own authority has declared that the death of the spouse is that which dissolves the union making a person free to marry another (Romans 7:2-3).

“It is the contempt of this primary law of nature (or rather of the God of nature, established from the beginning and afterwards enforced and explained by the positive laws above mentioned) which lies at the root of the evils complained of.”

Though some Christians may initially and for a short time resist and struggle against this CLEAR biblical teaching on marriage, they will ultimately acquiesce to it.

Before finally acquiescing, they might cry out:

If such is the case of the man with his woman, it is better not to marry (cf. Matthew 19:10). Some who “accept [it]” (Matthew 19:3-12) make “themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”

Some accept it though it’s not relevant for them [1] since both were virgins prior to becoming “one-flesh.” And multitudes upon multitudes will utterly reject it as “too strict” and “pastorally insensitive” and continue on in their filthy adulterous ways (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

[1] That is, it’s relevant for the two virgins above because the bible’s relevant. The “irrelevance” is only in the fact that the two virgins are not the ones who must remain eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

“For if a man (which in the scripture language means any man, every man without distinction) was deemed the husband of the virgin he lay with, and was obliged to make a publick [sic] recognition of it as enjoined by God so to do without any liberty to put her away all his days:

if the law of the land was as positive as to this as the law delivered from God to Moses above cited, we should see a wonderful change in the manners of the people as well as a stop put to the daily ruin of innocent girls.”

I am not saying that we ought to turn the United States into a theocracy; but merely as a passing observation I say that if any young man was under some kind of forced obligation to form a state-recognized marriage to the first virgin damsel he slept with, he probably would NOT lie with her (or, he’d just rebel against the forced obligation).

[I mentioned “virgin damsel” above. But the world has always been wicked and adulterous and so most likely finding a virgin is an extreme rarity. This adulterous world mocks virginity but as seen from Deuteronomy 22:13-21, it is this adulterous world that is disgraceful.]

“A man having enticed a maid sometimes lives with her for a season and then turns her off for another, not perhaps without making some provision for the first and the conscience of the man is salved by this piece of generosity, as it is called.

But the law of God is directly against such a proceeding. ‘He shall surely endow her to be his wife,’ saith the Most High; and the reason given for this can never alter nor cease, because the act from which it arises cannot be recalled.”

In the wicked, disgusting, and repulsive “dating scene” — a 19th century innovation some have said — many “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” become “one-flesh” with each other and then turn one “off for another.”

In much of the “dating scene” people are forming multiple “one-flesh” unions — and thus the “dating scene” reeks of adultery, being filled with the putrid stench of adulterers and adulteresses that reaches the Holy nostrils of God, who says that adulterers will be judged and will not inherit His kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Hebrews 13:4).

“It is not unusual for women so put away to marry other men, nay, sometimes they are portioned by the seducer for this very purpose. This fashionable way of getting rid of women, includes in it many crimes.

First, it is a breach of that positive law — ‘she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her he may not put her away all his days.’

Secondly, it is therefore a species of unlawful, forbidden divorce.

It is thirdly, adultery in the woman so put away to marry another.

And fourthly, he that marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery.”

Just like the Pharisees of old (cf. Matthew 15:1-9), many professing Christians ask us:

“Why do you transgress our marriage tradition? For by saying that sexual intercourse is what constitutes marriage you are advocating ‘shacking up’ and ‘fornication.'”

We respond with:

“Why do you also transgress the command of God on account of your marriage tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘the one who marries her who was put away commits adultery.’ But you say, ‘I am not committing adultery with my present wife, because all of that stuff in the past as a non-Christian was merely a bunch of non-committed sexual relationships’ or ‘I am not committing adultery with my present wife because my previous relationship didn’t fulfill all the conditions of marriage.'”

And thus these people annul the command of God on account of their marriage tradition.

What does sexual intercourse really mean? The truth we should be telling our children is the seriousness of sexual intercourse — that once you have had sexual intercourse with one person, you have married that person, and if the two of you split up, you must never have sexual intercourse again with another person. The consequences of that first sex act lasts a lifetime. THAT is how serious sexual intercourse is.

If the person to whom you are currently married — whether or not this marriage is state or “church” sanctioned or you are “shacking up” or just having a “casual and uncommitted relationship” with someone — is not the first person with whom you have had sexual intercourse, then you are currently living in adultery and have been for however long you have been with this person while the first person to whom you lost your virginity is still living. Will you justify your wickedness?

“… it is a great abuse of this ordinance to put it in the place of God’s institution, as some men do, thinking they are not married unless by a priest in a church, and taking advantage of their own villainy thus seduce women and put them away at their pleasure; whereas God’s law binds them in the first instant, and declares the bond indissoluble.”

The scenario of John, Jane, and Amy is a salient example of a person “taking advantage of their own villainy.”